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Azalina: Batu Puteh RCI a fact-finding mission, not to find fault

Publish date: Tue, 27 Feb 2024, 07:00 PM

KUALA LUMPUR: The Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) into the Batu Puteh, Middle Rocks and South Ledge issue was established as a "fact-finding mission" and not to find fault with any party, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (Law and Institutional Reform) Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said.

She said the RCI, which had been consented to by His Majesty, Sultan Ibrahim, King of Malaysia, would enable an in-depth and independent investigation to be carried out in a transparent and professional manner.

This was following a report by the task force set up to investigate the withdrawal of the government's application to review the International Court of Justice's (ICJ) ruling on the territorial dispute between Malaysia and Singapore, she said.

"The people of Malaysia deserve to know the raw truth and web of reasons behind this decision.

"This is a matter of the country's sovereignty. What went wrong? Who was responsible for making the decision that caused Malaysia to lose sovereignty over Batu Puteh?

"Were the legal procedures and processes adhered to?" she said in explaining the matter during the Dewan Rakyat special chamber sitting today.

Azalina said a timeframe of one to three months was given to the RCI to carry out its investigation, with a maximum of six months provided for considering the wide scope and complexity of the issue.

In general, she said, the RCI's terms of reference, among others, cover the gathering of relevant statements and taking into consideration prior challenges faced by the task force; as well as to review, study and prepare views and recommendations on legal and non-legal action that can be taken.

"The RCI report will then be presented to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong for consent and subsequently brought to the cabinet for deliberation of necessary actions towards a more effective handling of the country's sovereignty issue.

"The government is also committed to having the RCI report tabled in Parliament."

Azalina said the task force to probe the Batu Puteh case, which was set up on Dec 22, 2021, took 10 months before preparing a final report after conducting reviews and studying the case.

The team, however, faced various challenges in carrying out its duties as it did not have the authority that an RCI has to summon individuals in gathering relevant documents, she said.

"Furthermore, the task force in its report stated that some quarters refused to extend their cooperation either due to personal or professional reasons.

"In this matter, it was unable to verify facts and conduct the investigation effectively and holistically as it did not have any clear powers under the law."

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